Rcaing: Sharp form reversal rewards faith

ROYAL ASCOT: A long-odds filly cashes in on a Guineas turn-around ahead of today's fascinating showpiece on Ladies' Day
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The Independent Online
A little under 19 lengths separated Sleepytime, the winner, and Rebecca Sharp in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket in May, but the Coronation Stakes here yesterday proved that a month and a half can be a long time on the turf. It was a reminder, too, that there is no such thing as a racing certainty, as Rebecca Sharp improved by 21 lengths on her Classic form, to beat Ocean Ridge and Sleepytime, the 5-6 favourite, to win the most valuable race of the day at 25-1.

At first sight, this was a disastrous result for form-book publishers, and a magnificent one for the pedlars of such alternative gambling mediums as bingo and the football pools. The lesson to be learned, though, is that the bare form, even of a race of such quality as the 1,000 Guineas, rarely tells the whole story. Fillies in particular take time to find their form as three-year-olds, and the Newmarket Classic can only identify which is the the best of them at a very early stage of the campaign. On yesterday's evidence, Sleepytime's predominance has already run its course.

Nor was Rebecca Sharp's victory entirely unexpected, with at least one punter winning pounds 10,000 for a pounds 300 bet. Geoff Wragg, her trainer, has long considered the filly among the best in his yard.

"It's difficult to know what to do when you've won a maiden but finished third-last in the 1,000 Guineas," Anthony Oppenheimer, her owner, said. "It requires a tremendous act of faith. Before this race, Geoff and I decided to have a bash and, if she didn't perform, it was time for handicaps at Carlisle. But it wasn't hard to give her another chance, and she'd been pleasing Geoff very much recently."

The racegoers of Carlisle will no doubt be disappointed, but Cumbria is now unlikely to feature in Rebecca's Sharp's schedule. The Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket's July meeting should be her next start, while a return to Group One company will now hold no fears.

If the result of the Coronation Stakes was a poor one for punters - and bets on Sleepytime included one of pounds 30,000 to win pounds 25,000 - some at least were rewarded in the Royal Hunt Cup, which can make or break a backer's week all by itself. Inevitably, several well-planned gambles went astray, including a run on Reg Akehurst's Tregaron, but the man who wins big handicaps the way Henry Cecil wins Classics still found his way to the winner's enclosure. Red Robbo, apparently Akehurst's second-string yesterday, was still backed from 33-1 down to 16-1, and Olivier Peslier's late thrust past Crown Court on the stand rail rewarded plenty of shrewd investments.

It was as well for Peslier that he finished in front, since he would otherwise have been found guilty of wilful disobedience. "I had agreed with Olivier that he should go over to the far side where the fast horses were," Akehurst said, "but fortunately he ignored me. I honestly fancied Tregaron more today, and if you saw them both working, so would you."

French jockeys rarely make much impression on British backers, but Peslier is gathering a significant following, and is now the 9-4 second-favourite to end the meeting as top rider. Frankie Dettori is the 5-4 favourite even though he failed to add to his total yesterday and will be suspended on Friday.

Michael Kinane, who has won the trophy for the last three years, is a 16-1 chance, but he did at least register his first win of the week, on Among Men in the Jersey Stakes. The son of Zilzal, who won the same race on the way to even better things, is improving swiftly, and might yet compensate Kinane, Michael Stoute and Michael Tabor, his owner, for their bitter disappointment with Entrepreneur in the Derby.

The speed with which anyone's fortunes can change was quickly apparent, though, as Heeremandi, representing Tabor in the Queen Mary Stakes, started favourite but finished unplaced behind Nadwah, Peter Walwyn's first Royal Ascot winner since 1990.

"The race looked a bit like the M25 on a Friday night," Walwyn said, referring to the erratic course plotted by the aptly named Crazee Mental inside the final furlong, which earned John Carroll a two-day suspension.

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